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How Best Buy strives for transparency

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This guest post is by Miri Zena McDonald, a strategic communications consultant. Miri tweets at @miri_orgchange. This week, she’s reporting live from Marcus Evans 6th Annual Employee Engagement and Internal Communications Conference in Orlando.

Business leaders must make their strategy clear to employees if they want to foster engagement, says Gil Dennis, senior director of HR communications and employer branding for Best Buy. In his presentation, he spoke about enhancing employee engagement, message reach, and culture through the use of new media. He also stressed the power of simplicity: “If your Power Point is more than 5 slides don’t bother. They won’t care.”

Dennis is particularly proud of the company’s employer website,, which includes content that was previously private. Dennis said he received lots of resistance from corporate leaders about that decision — and even more from legal. When HR proposed that certain forms shouldn’t be accessible by the public, Dennis pushed back — “Maybe we shouldn’t have that form then.”

Since then, the site has seen more than 287,000 hits in less than 12 months and has grown to include an online performance management program, videos and blogs by leaders including the chief ethics officer and HR director. Dennis shared one video that is available on the site that highlights Best Buy’s peer review process, an appeals process for employees that are terminated.

A broader framework is part of a broader philosophy that defines how the company communicates now. That concept helps to define what projects and initiatives get prioritized. There are four key pieces:

  • Build demand by identifying the business need first.
  • Create a point of view that resonates with the masses and can be explained in 30 seconds.
  • Empower employees to hold leaders accountable.
  • Start simple, land something small, and then adapt it.

He shared the three elements used to put this into practice:

  • Define the strategy: Decide what is important.
  • Enable understanding: Flood the system with behavioral examples.
  • Gain acceptance: Challenge individuals to write themselves into the story.

Making the most of social media

Dennis said he strongly believes that people have to see behaviors every day that show what the company stands for. Social media, in particular, allows people to write themselves into the story and interact with others about it.

He recounted early discussions with leadership and legal regarding controlling employees’ use of social media. Dennis said he didn’t have to say a word — he just showed them the 41,000 videos about Best Buy already on YouTube. “In the age of social media there are no secrets. And it’s not going away. You have to decide how you are going to play in the system” Dennis said.

Best Buy decided to educate employees about what the company stands for and then allow them to represent the brand on social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook. Best Buy now has a strong employee presence on Twitter, including use by the CEO and the chief marketing officer.  “Our organization is embracing connectivity and making sure we stay connected with employees,” he said.